How Tesco works in South Korea. Virtual shopping, real results.


It’s not exactly digital-out-of-home nor digital signage but it is about reaching people on the go with the right information.  It also involves the famous QR codes.

South- Koreans are the world’s second busiest people in terms of working hours so they’re not very keen grocery shoppers as they simply don’t have the time. On the other hand, they’ re famous for being tech-savvy. Based on this data, Tesco came up with an innovative idea for strengthening its position on the market without opening any new stores.

The idea behind this concept was ”If people don’t come to the store, let the store come to the people.” Note that not to their homes- as they’re not so much there-  but to wherever they really are. Subway stations were spotted as a place where they’re more likely to be found during the day, with some idle time on hands that they usually spend using their smartphones.  This prolonged dwell time made shopping suitable and QR codes viable.  But the right shopping atmosphere was not there yet. Until illuminated posters have been placed  presenting a wide range of food, drinks and other products South Koreans would normally find in a Tesco store. Each product image had a QR code which- once scanned- activates the buying process. The purchases are then home delivered, saving much of the time of the overbooked South Korean.

The result: a sales boost of 135% in only 2 months and a Media Grand Prix at Cannes Lions. Marketing doesn’t have to be neither expensive nor highly technical. It just has to make shopping easier by bringing a practical answer to a real problem. And that’s what Tesco’s ”virtual stores” did.


P.S. We’ve recently found out that Prague’s subway has embraced the concept (maybe the second in Europe to do so, after Ocado) offering virtual grocery stores in the capital’s 4 busiest stations. The new virtual stores, similar to the Tesco’s South- Korean ones will be ”open” until the end of 2011 with more products added as holidays approach. We’ll probably see more and more examples of this kind in the future, as the concept is obviously answering an existing need.

6 thoughts on “How Tesco works in South Korea. Virtual shopping, real results.

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  5. This is a very interesting form of dmeorn contemporary advertising; however, this system comes at a greater expense to its users. I agree that it is significantly convenient.This form of advertising requires that the user already be aware of the barcode scanning, have enough money to afford bandwidth on top of affording their regular bill. What we’re seeing here is a costly addition to the customer for the benefit of the company (HomePlus). Some Smartphones have not the focus recognition of barcode scanning (although it may very well be an app, specific camera technology within the phone itself may not be compatible), furthermore, they must go through a gateway which holds tremendous information (including credit card details) that can be intercepted easily, these apps were not made bullet-proof.Although I can see the benefit in this method of advertising, we are forgetting the danger this form of advertising allows one brand to purchase all the advertising space in the entire subway while local competitors get continually crushed.Great article, very interesting. Thanks for the share -Sufi M